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Art exhibition shows life through the eyes of migrants

Malay Mail Online - 12 November 2014 - A picture of a group of men, some clad only in sarongs and shorts, gathered together for a meal on the floor.

A wall adorned with colourful drawings by Rohingya refugees children at the 'Expressing the Migrant & Refugee Journey' arts and music extravaganza at Hin Bus Depot Art Centre. — Picture by K.E. Ooi








GEORGE TOWN, Nov 12 — A picture of a group of men, some clad only in sarongs and shorts, gathered together for a meal on the floor.

Another picture of scaffolding reaching up to the skies.

Then there is the picture of men working at a construction site.

These pictures, though not taken by a professional photographer, show us the life of a migrant worker, Saiful Islam, from Bangladesh.

The pictures are accompanied by brief insights into Saiful's life as a roof and insulation installer here where he depended on his friends — fellow migrant workers — for companionship and friendship.

“It's worth it. I don't feel tired, with me working hard, they all (family) get to eat. I think of it that way. Some people feel that this is just one Bangladeshi, with no college education, just a foreign worker. I came here for work. Not to steal, or rob you, or do harm. I came for work. To look for money.”

This is his final line accompanying his compilation of 38 photographs depicting his daily life as a foreigner working in a land far away from home.

Saiful's poignant photographs are part of an art and photography exhibition entitled Expressing the Migrant and Refugee Journey at the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre.

The exhibition is held in conjunction with Penang's Local Democracy Festival 2014 that advocates for the full recognition and inclusion of all groups in society as equal partners in decision making and in shaping the present and future.

The Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign is the main organiser of the exhibition along with two fundraising activities tied to the exhibition.

Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign co-ordinator James Lochhead said the migrant and refugee communities have been an important part of Penang's history.

“We dare say all of us are descendants from migrants or refugees and Penang is certainly the product of contributions of the journeys of migrants and refugees over the centuries,” Lochhead said during the launch of the exhibition yesterday.





The exhibition also features photographs of the life of immigrants by photographers kG Krishnan and Beatrice Leong.

“We wanted to present a different viewpoint instead of just an art and photo exhibition, this is why we included the 38 photographs taken by Saiful,” Lochhead said.

“We gave him a disposable film camera and asked him to show us the life that he is living in Malaysia and these photographs tell the story of his life here.”

On another section of the indoor exhibition, colourful drawings adorn a wall.

Lochhead said these are drawings by kindergarten Rohingya refugee children and by today, another wall will display paintings by adult refugees.

“In this exhibition and the two main events this week, we embrace these migrants and refugee communities and we celebrate them for being such an important part of our present and that they will be an important part of our future too,” he said.

The exhibition is open to the public from today until Saturday and it will culminate in a fundraising event this Friday and a children's Art Jam on Saturday.

On Friday, between 7.30pm and 10.30pm, there will be a fundraising party and jam session at the depot where bands will be performing for a night of dancing and singing.

“We are raising funds for the refugee kindergarten and also for our campaign against human trafficking,” Lochhead said.

The Art Jam session will be held from 10am to 12pm on Saturday for children below 12 years of age where participation fees of RM5 per child and RM10 per adult are charged.

The fees collected will also be in aid of the Rohingya refugee kindergarten and the campaign's ongoing work for the migrant and refugee communities in Penang.

The Penang Local Democracy Festival is organised by Suaram Penang and supported by the Penang government.

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